Miró, Montserrat and Café de l'Opera
The halfway point of La Rambla is marked a few steps farther on in the middle of the thoroughfare, where a large, abstract tiled mosaic in his signature primary colors is the handiwork of distinguished Catalan artist Joan Miró, who was born a few streets away in the Barri Gòtic. If you are traveling with kids get them to play hunt the signature. For more Miró, schedule time to take in the terrific gallery entirely devoted to his works in Montjuïc.
You are now entering the primary people-watching stretch of La Rambla, the Rambla dels Caputxins, named for the habits of the monks who once held sway in these parts. It became a haunt of the bourgeoisie, thanks to the presence of the Gran Teatre del Liceu, one of the world's leading opera houses, and reopened in 1999 following a catastrophic fire. The fire devastated the artist most closely identified with it, the larger-than-life Catalan diva Montserrat Caballé--known to the pop world for a crossover hymn to Barcelona recorded with Queen's Freddie Mercury. You can take in its classically inspired Hall of Mirrors and the opulent interior on guided or self-guided tours--though there's nothing to beat taking in a performance if the opportunity presents itself.
Back across on the left, is the venerable Café de l'Ópera, but--tempting as the sidewalk pews are, particularly on a sunny day--you really need to venture inside to appreciate the décor from 1929, in the Noucentista style, which harkens back to the Belle Epoque.
It's the sort of place where, as night falls, you might find yourself seated between a dapper professor and flamboyantly dressed intellectual on one side and a Scrabble-playing couple on the other. You almost expect the waiters to be serving shots of absinthe. But the rarified atmosphere is not at all exclusive, as the cerebral customers share the place with gaggles of women who come in to pore over maps, pick the brains of the waiters and plan their night's entertainment.
Address: C/ la Rambla, 74
Phone: 933 177 585
Hours: Monday through Thursday and Sunday 8:30am - 2:15pm; Friday and Saturday 8:30am - 2:45pm